The sum of N83.9 billion naira in loans have been disbursed to 26 pharmaceutical companies and 56 heathcare practitioners in the country by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
This was disclosed by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, over the weekend at a public function in Lagos, during which he said the fund disbursement was part of the apex bank’s commitment to seeing improved healthcare funding in the country in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Emefiele, represented by CBN Acting Director, Corporate Communications, Osita Nwanisobi, said the apex bank was also able to mobilise key stakeholders in the Nigerian economy through the Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACOVID) alliance, which led to the provision of over N25 billion in relief materials to affected households, and the set-up of 39 isolation centres across the country.
He said the apex bank focused its interventions on building the capacity of Nigeria’s healthcare institutions, supporting the domestic manufacturing of drugs by businesses, and providing grants to researchers in the medical field, in order to encourage them to develop breakthrough innovations that would address health challenges faced by Nigerians.
These measures, he said, helped to expand and strengthen the capacity of healthcare institutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We also initiated the Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Grant Scheme, which will aid research on solutions that could address diseases such as COVID-19, and other communicable/non-communicable diseases. So far, five major healthcare-related research projects are being financed under this initiative,” he said.
Emefiele, while applauding the usefulness of such interventions in improving Nigeria’s capacity to respond to the crisis, said the country cannot afford to rest on its oars as more work needs to be done to build more sustainable healthcare infrastructure in the country.
“This work will require the collaborative efforts of both public and private sector stakeholders. One key aspect which we would have to address is improving access to healthcare for all Nigerians.
“A key factor that has impeded access to healthcare for Nigerians is the prevailing cost of healthcare services.
“According to a study by World Health Organisation, only four per cent of Nigerians have access to health insurance.
“Besides food, healthcare expenses are a significant component of average Nigeria’s personal expenditure.
“Out of pocket expenses on healthcare amount to close to 76 per cent of total healthcare expenditure. At such levels of health spending, individuals, particularly those in rural communities, may be denied access to healthcare services,” he said.
Emefiele added that expanding the insurance net to capture the pool of Nigerians not covered by existing health insurance schemes could help to reduce the high out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare services by Nigerians.
“It will also help to increase the pool of funds that could be invested in building our healthcare infrastructure and in improving the existing welfare package of our healthcare workers.
“The private sector has a significant role to play in this regard given the decline in government revenues as occasioned by the drop in commodity prices.
“Leveraging innovative solutions that can provide insurance services at relatively cheap prices could significantly help to improve access to healthcare for a large proportion of Nigerians particularly those in our rural communities,” he concluded.